5.7. Disseminating Local Best Practices throughout the World

Toyota has developed new practices and processes as a result of incorporating the unique demands of customers in specific local markets. Local customization has worked because Toyota recognizes the value that diversity brings to the whole company and therefore entrusts its local operations with significant autonomy. The challenge for Toyota was how to preserve that diversity and autonomy while encouraging each country to share its best practices for mutual benefit. As the automobile industry became globalized, Toyota had to pursue both localization and global commonality.

Toyota established its Global Knowledge Center in July 2002 in Torrance, California, embracing the opposing requirements of localization and commonality of practice. The task of the center was to disseminate innovation from specific local markets into a global process to benefit the whole company. Prior to establishment of this center (discussed in more detail in Chapter 7), there were few avenues within Toyota for transferring customer knowledge across countries or sharing local best practices in sales and marketing worldwide.

The lack of opportunity to share knowledge and best practices across countries stemmed from the perception that Toyota's marketing and human resources practices—the soft side of management—were a local phenomenon and since market conditions differed from country to country, no single set of sales and marketing rules could apply ...

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